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Long snapper battle and a Leach sighting

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2016 – 8:45 am

The Cardinals are still looking for their long snapper, although their former long snapper is still around — at least right now.

Mike Leach, who retired in the offseason, was at the Cardinals’ preseason opener Friday night and helped this week at practice the Cardinals’ pair of undrafted rookies who are trying to claim his vacant job — Kam Canaday and Daniel Dillon. Leach was around the team some during OTAs this offseason as well, and even though he and his family have moved back east in retirement, it says something about Leach that he wants to help the Cardinals in their quest to replace him.

“Having him there … coaches will tell (players) something but when you have a guy who’s done it for 16 years, they listen a little better,” coach Bruce Arians said.

Canaday and Dillon — roomates and now close friends — will get the balance of the preseason to earn the job over the other. There was nothing remarkable about either’s work in the Raiders game, which for a long snapper is a good thing. If you don’t notice them, they are doing the job.

“It’s a heck of a battle,” Arians said. “(I will) feel very comfortable with one of them.”



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Keim: No signings, but maybe a trade?

Posted by Darren Urban on August 15, 2016 – 8:52 am

Since training camp started, there was the possibility — given the inexperience of right tackle D.J. Humphries, and in total, the inexperience of every tackle on the roster not named Jared Veldheer — the Cardinals would bring in a veteran tackle to shore the position up. The Cards have already done that at cornerback, although rookie Brandon Williams has been basically unchallenged for a starting role. Mike Jenkins got hurt, and Alan Ball hasn’t done anything to change the equation (and Justin Bethel remains on PUP.)

After a first preseason game where both Humphries and Williams had rocky moments, might that change? General Manager Steve Keim said no. And he’s got a good reason.

“There’s nobody on the waiver wire that has these guys’ skillset,” Keim said bluntly on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “Unless you can tell me somebody we can find out there, I mean, we’re always looking at the waiver wire to try and improve this team and we’ll be aggressive and pro-active. But when you take 90 (men on a roster) and times it by 32 (teams), you tell me who’s out there, and when you look at who’s out there, why are they out there.”

Now, that might and very well could change once cuts start coming. But for now, pickings are slim.

On the other hand, Keim reiterated he and Chargers GM Tom Telesco will get together this week when the Cards and Chargers have their joint practices and discuss the two rosters, each team’s deficiencies, “in hopes where we can talk about, ‘Hey, is there an area where we can help each other improve?’ ”

Maybe that could mean a trade.

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Goodwin to call plays Friday, and the “out” list

Posted by Darren Urban on August 10, 2016 – 12:41 pm

Every preseason, Bruce Arians — who is the Cardinals’ playcaller and has been and always will be, as long as he’s coaching — turns the reins over to offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin to call plays. It’s to get Goodwin experience in the area, as Arians tries to prep him for a future head coaching job. This preseason, Goodwin will call plays (and gameplan, such that it is in the preseason) in three of the four games. The only one Arians will take is the third one, of course, the “most important” of the preseason games.

So what will that make Arians Friday night?

“Bored,” he deadpanned.

Arians loves to call plays. “That’s the fun in coaching for me,” he said. But he’s committed to helping coaches — in this case, Goodwin — grow. Exactly what will Arians do on the sideline? “Deciding if we are going for it on fourth,” Arians said. “Or go for two. Tough job. Someone has to do it.”

Arians also acknowledged it’ll free him up to bark at the officials too. But that’s something Arians is never going to give up.

UPDATE: Goody weighed in. “I love him for it,” said Goodwin, who also called the plays in three of the four preseason games in 2015. “He’s been a mentor for me since 2007, back in Pittsburgh. He’s always put me in a position to learn and grow as a coach. For him to do this for me is special. Tells me he thinks a lot of me, and I don’t ever want to disappoint him.”

Goodwin said he’s learned his lesson about taking shots down the field as a play caller as well. “The first time I called plays a couple years back, the halftime speech he gave me, it wasn’t very nice,” Goodwin said. “It was still professional, but he said ‘You’ve got to call more shots.’ ”

— The list of players officially not playing Friday against the Raiders because of injuries: Everyone on the PUP list, of course, plus CB Asa Jackson, CB Mike Jenkins, WR Smokey Brown, OL Earl Watford, OL Taylor Boggs, DT Corey Peters, LB Alani Fua, DT Robert Nkemdiche and WR Brittan Golden, who hurt his hamstring Tuesday.

Arians said CB Cariel Brooks, WR Jaxon Shipley and DT Olsen Pierre are all questionable right now. The Cards are hurting at receiver and cornerback, but “it’s a great opportunity for the ones that are out there,” Arians said.

— Watford is on crutches after hurting his knee, but Arians estimated he’d only be out a couple of weeks. Even if it’s a little longer, the good news is that Watford isn’t seriously hurt. He’s become important, as a guy who can legitimately play all five spots, as the top backup offensive lineman.

“His value is sometimes higher than a starter,” Arians said.



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Arians: Practice got sloppy (and Niklas’ name)

Posted by Darren Urban on August 9, 2016 – 12:23 pm

It’s that time of camp, Bruce Arians said.

It’s that time when players get a little bored, and no matter what the warning from the top, it shows up on the field. So Arians was irritated with the Cardinals’ practice Monday after a Sunday off.

“It hits you right in the face when you put the sheet up there and there are 18 penalties and 45 mental errors,” Arians said, noting that there were “some veteran Pro Bowlers who had five mental errors.”

Arians was confident the Cards would respond well later Tuesday, but lamented the fact Monday’s was practice time the Cards won’t be able to get back.

“I’m disappointed with leadership of the team, because that’s their job,” Arians said.

— WR J.J. Nelson (groin) is returning to practice, but Swiss Army knife OL Earl Watford is out after bruising his knee Monday (it actually looked like it could have been worse, although Watford didn’t miss a play) and CB Cariel Brooks (quad) is also out for now.

— Arians thinks WR Smokey Brown (concussion) will be cleared in the next day or two, but the coach ruled Brown out from playing Friday night.

— There is a chance DBs Tyrann Mathieu and Justin Bethel could come off PUP next week. But Arians said if they are not ready to take part in the two practices against the Chargers, the team will probably hold off.

— Current frontrunner for quote of camp: Arians said TE Troy Niklas has been playing well, playing like the guy the Cards drafted in the second round in 2014. About this, Niklas was happy. Always good to hear the boss is pleased. “He gets my name confused with dumb mother(expletive) a lot,” Niklas said with a smile.

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The first depth chart, 2016

Posted by Darren Urban on August 8, 2016 – 11:19 am

The Cardinals’ first game is Friday night against the Raiders, so that means the first depth chart of the season was put out today. As always, it’s a preseason depth chart, and there is a ton of wiggle room in what it says and what happens once the games start and who plays on the field.

“It’s (in) invisible ink,” coach Bruce Arians said, laughing. “It ain’t even in pencil.”

That said, it’s always interesting to take a look at where the players are at this point.

— On offense, there is nothing really wacky. The starters, given what Bruce Arians has said about both A.Q. Shipley and D.J. Humphries, are as expected. Perhaps the only notable thing is that, as of now, tryout rookie Chris Hubert — who has flashed multiple times in practice — is ahead of veteran Brittan Golden at one of the wideout positions (behind Fitz and Jaron Brown.)

— On defense, even though Ed Stinson has been with the first-unit much of the offseason and camp, it is Rodney Gunter listed as a starter with Calais Campbell, and the now-injured Corey Peters as the starting nose tackle. Given the depth at the defensive line, the rotation will show starting means little since so many guys will be moved in and out.

— Brandon Williams, the rookie, is the starter at cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. That’s not a surprise since Justin Bethel has been hurt for so long. Bethel hasn’t been on the field to play since the NFC Championship, although he should be close to a return.

— At safety, something to watch. The starters are the injured Tyrann Mathieu, and he is backed up by Tony Jefferson. The strong safety starter right now is listed as D.J. Swearinger, ahead of Tyvon Branch. Before the offseason, you would’ve thought Branch or Jefferson would be penciled in there, but it is Swearinger right now. As much as the Cards have had to figure out their cornerback situation, their safety spot — especially with rookie Marqui Christian making strides — is pretty strong. There might have to be a tough choice made there too, especially once Mathieu is considered healthy.

Here’s the whole chart:


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Thoughts after the Red-White practice

Posted by Darren Urban on August 6, 2016 – 4:56 pm

Here we are after the Red-White practice, the annual first real break point of training camp. From here on out — save for the bye week — the Cardinals will have a football game every week. That starts this coming Friday with the preseason opener at home against Oakland.

But first, a few thoughts and analysis after the Red-White work, which featured a lot more live play than I was expecting. It was good to see real football again. I know Andre Ellington agrees.

— Among the “stars” Saturday was wide receiver Jaron Brown, who made several nice catches — including a 25-yard TD reception from Larry Fitzgerald on the WR option pass. Brown is one of those guys who could easily be with another team making more plays than he does in Arizona. He simply has too many talented guys ahead of him.

— Ellington also looked very good as a receiver. The Cards’ passing game looked pretty sharp all around.

— Calais Campbell and Chandler Jones caused havoc up front as the practice went on. Jones continues to show he will be a great pass rusher.

— Not a great sign considering both Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians have said short-yardage improvement is a priority, but during “live” play in the middle of the field Chris Johnson was stuffed for a loss on a fourth-and-1 run.

— And in the goal line “live” drill, the first-string offense failed to score in three tries. There was an incomplete play-action pass, and then David Johnson was swamped under on two other runs. Linebacker Kevin Minter got Johnson the first time (Minter had a smile about it, as you can see in the picture), while veteran DT Red Bryant led the charge to blow up the final attempt.

— The second-unit offense was more successful in goal line, scoring twice on runs by Chris Johnson and Elijhaa Penny.

— Despite all the hitting/tackling, no one seemed to get hurt, although guard Mike Iupati did go down on a play when it looked like someone rolled up on his legs. Iupati was able to get back in after one play though, so crisis averted.

— Crowd was estimated at 25,000.

— The Cards are off Sunday, and resume practice Monday.


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Analyzing the Fitz and Palmer deals

Posted by Darren Urban on August 6, 2016 – 12:57 pm

The news that both Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald received one-year extensions was certainly noteworthy, especially when it comes to Fitzgerald. Yes, Fitz could still decide to walk away after the season and retire. But I don’t think that’s likely now that he’s agreed to another year. No longer will he be a free agent, and I just don’t see him choosing to walk away. I could be wrong — and if the Cardinals were to win a Super Bowl, I’d guess the temptation would be there — but if Fitz comes anywhere close to posting similar numbers as last year while the team can win, I’d guess he fulfills the 2017 portion of his deal.

— As for Palmer, Bruce Arians was blunt: “I don’t think anything changes other than he’s got another year.” Palmer was going to be around.

— Kent Somers reported the move doesn’t have an impact on the salary cap. Which again would revert back to the roster certainty the Cards get out of these moves as a reason to do them.

— What it does do with both is create a roster certainty for next season, important on a team that still has a number of key free agents-to-be. Michael Floyd will be a free agent and figures to command big dollars. If the Cardinals lose him, at least they know they (probably) still have Fitz to anchor the receiving corps.

— Arians also said Palmer’s deal doesn’t impact the search for a QB of the future. “It depends on who the hell is out there,” Arians said. “Who is it? If he’s there, we’ll take it. If he’s not there, we don’t need him.”

— Big props to Mike Disner (pictured below with GM Steve Keim), the team’s director of football administration who is the main contract negotiator. It was a big week for him, getting the the Tyrann Mathieu extension done and then the Fitz and Palmer deals. Maybe he can get some down time now.


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Fitz messes with Smokey, and loafing rookies

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2016 – 2:01 pm

All John Brown wanted to do was go to lunch. But Larry Fitzgerald, making an appearance in a near-empty locker room, was surrounded by media, and he was trying not to do the interview session alone. So he grabbed Brown’s backpack — Smokey kept calling it his “bookbag” — and took it. Brown wasn’t allowed to talk while in concussion protocol, but Fitz wouldn’t give up the bag. So there Fitz sat in his locker, Brown’s backpack secure between his legs, while Brown sat on the outside of the scrum quietly waiting.

At one point, Brown, tired of waiting, tried to sneak on the floor through some media legs to grab the backpack. Fitz saw it coming, and wouldn’t let him take it — all while continuing to answer questions. Smokey could only sit, head in hand, waiting like a kid who is stuck in the department store while mom is shopping.

Can’t blame Fitz for being in a playful mood after Friday’s big news.

On to football stuff, the first of which includes an irritated Bruce Arians:

— Arians’ problem is with rookies and effort, and he made it very, very clear after Thursday’s practice. “Do not like where some young guys’ heads are as far as the speed of the game for the allotted time practice is,” Arians said. “They won’t make our ballclub at the level they are going at, so we have had some conversations.”

Arians didn’t name names. And he made clear exactly what he meant: “They are loafing, especially on special teams, where they are going to make the team,” Arians said. “Turn that tape on, they ain’t going fast enough to make this team.”

“You’ll either be flipping burgers or bagging groceries or you might be here,” Arians added. “That’s your choice, in about three weeks. Because if you practice like you did, you ain’t getting in the (first preseason) game next Friday night.”

— DT Ed Stinson (calf) is returning to practice. Center Taylor Boggs (calf) got hurt Thursday and is out for now. No other injury changes.

— Rookie CB Brandon Williams is the starter right now, Arians said. “There ain’t nobody else out there challenging him right now.”

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Camp “grind” and needing two bars

Posted by Darren Urban on August 4, 2016 – 12:17 pm

Last week, Larry Fitzgerald noted that Bruce Arians doesn’t like to use the word “grind” when it comes to training camp. The coach made it obvious why today.

“It’s not a grind,” Arians said. “How can it be a grind when it’s one practice (a day) in air conditioning, and you stay in a five-star hotel. That ain’t a grind. A grind is two practices (a day), three hours, both in pads, in a (expletive) dorm and camp is off somewhere in the middle of nowhere. That’s a grind. Two bars, nowhere to go.”

The significance of two bars?

“One for the players, one for the coaches,” Arians quipped.

— The Cards seem to have gotten good news on a pair of injuries. LB Alani Fua (knee) doesn’t need surgery and, if you can call it good news, DT Corey Peters only has plantar fasciitis. That could still sideline him a little bit — it’s up in the air right now — but at least he didn’t injure again his Achilles, which was an immediate fear.

— Arians updated some of the long-term injuries: S Tyrann Mathieu (knee) and DT Frostee Rucker (foot) are out “probably two weeks,” DT Robert Nkemdiche (ankle), CB Justin Bethel (foot) and CB Elie Bouka (hamstring) are probably less than two.

— WR Larry Fitzgerald will get his veterans day off today. He was supposed to be off Tuesday but worked because so many receivers were sitting because of injuries.

— Earl Watford will play a lot of center the next few practices, Arians said, to get him game-ready. Arians said offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin calls Watford “Knife” — as in Swiss Army, since Watford can play every position on the line. His versatility makes him a strong candidate to be one of the backup linemen active on game days.

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Amid Mathieu contract reports, a lunch update

Posted by Darren Urban on August 2, 2016 – 12:39 pm

A quick lunchtime update from training camp, amid multiple reports that the Cardinals and Tyrann Mathieu have agreed on a contract extension. Nothing official yet, so we’ll see how it plays out. In the meantime:

— On the injury front, WR J.J. Nelson (groin), WR Franky Okafor (ankle) and DT Ed Stinson (calf) got hurt Monday. LB Alani Fua hurt his knee and that’s the one the Cards are most concerned about. Fua is having an MRI to determine the severity.

— QB Carson Palmer will have a vets day off Tuesday. Larry Fitzgerald was supposed to, but with all the receiver injuries, he’s going to do some work.

— Arians on LT Jared Veldheer, who weighed about 310 last year but it up to 330 this year despite cutting body fat. “When he came to us he was a mountain,” Arians said. “Last year he was a pole.” Arians said Veldheer needed the weight after getting bullrushed too much in 2015.

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